Prehistoric Humans Took in Art Shows

Anthropologists have uncovered sequences of images that appear to be a Copper Age version of animation.

THE GIST

Prehistoric people appear to have enjoyed a primitive form of cinema.

Sequences of engravings may have been part of ancient audiovisual performances.

The engravings, which date back to 4000 to 1000 B.C., often depict fights, dances or hunts.

Prehistoric people enjoyed a primitive version of cinema, according to Austrian and British researchers, who are currently seeking to recreate these ancient visual displays.

Rock engravings from the Copper Age found all over Europe in remote, hidden locations, indicate the artwork was more than mere images, researchers from Cambridge University and Sankt Poelten's university of applied sciences (FH) in Austria believe.

"The cliff engravings... in our opinion are not just pictures but are part of an audiovisual performance," Frederick Baker of Cambridge University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology said in a statement Tuesday. "There was still no moving image but (the pictures) created sequences like in animation... this was not just a treat for the eyes but also for the ears, as these rock engravings are especially found in locations with particular echoes."

"In this sense, the rock engravings are not just static images but pictures that created a story in the mind of the viewer -- just like at the cinema," added Baker.

Cambridge University and FH Sankt Poelten have now launched a "Prehistoric Picture Project" with Weimar's Bauhaus university in Germany to recreate these films, using computer technology to establish the sequence of images and animate them like in a cartoon.

The "movies," dating back to 4000 to 1000 B.C., often depict fights, dances or hunts, but interestingly never show death and rarely portray women, the project's coordinators said.

The project is being conducted in Valcamonica, in Italy's northern Lombardy region, where the highest concentration of such engravings -- some 100,000 pictures -- can be found.